European Vacation (sort of)

Disclaimer – I realize the photos aren’t the greatest here but I will update once I get home.

I can’t help but think of references to the movie “European Vacation” and how I’m sure that I’m coming across as a stupid American – taking pictures of every little thing (food, signs, toilets – this last one will have its own blog post so stay tuned!).  I’m not here in Germany for vacation but I have instilled my motto of “work hard, play hard.” Here’s a summary of what my colleague and I have been doing outside of work. I’ll assume you don’t want to see the work side of things and won’t be posting any Visio diagrams or project plans.

We’re currently staying in beautiful Muenster, Germany. It’s small city  and has about 250,000 people and 80,000 students – it’s a college town. Most people get around town by bike which I’ve learned the hard way that they have the right of way. The good thing is even though they do have the right of way, they are quite polite about it. No yelling, no obnoxious bell ringing.

After surviving the long flight from Seattle, train ride from Dusseldorf, and a good night sleep, we ventured out to some local cuisine and to view the town. To our surprise, just about every store was closed. It was Sunday and it’s just how things are here, a day of rest. Personally, I actually prefer the European lifestyle – it’s not so rushed and there is plenty of time to relax and enjoy a cappuccino.

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The town is filled with lots of churches (or cathedrals) and they are absolutely stunning and filled with interesting history. It was great to wake to the bells ringing. The one church pictured below has cages at the top where the bodies Anabaptists were placed for viewing in 1536 as a deterrent to others.

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Monday – Friday, we had full days of working in a conference room learning our how our colleagues do business here in Europe. Here’s proof we were actually working (and drinking a Fritz Kola).

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Friday evening was quite the treat. Our wonderful colleague took us to Oktoberfest. Although it wasn’t the real Oktoberfest in Munich,  in my opinion, it was much better! There was great Bavarian food, beer, singing, dancing…and we can’t forget the outfits. Everyone (including us) was wearing the traditional clothes for Oktoberfest. Most women were dressed in dirndls and the men were in lederhosen. I was wearing lederhosen – I was told that it’s quite modern for the women to wear as well. I’ll admit the beer was a little different than I was expecting. Apparently by German law, you can only have four ingredients – water, grain, yeast, and hops. Because of this, the Germans add other flavors like Coke, Sprite, and Lemonade. Just makes it very interesting. Did I mention the beers were 1 Liter? I feel like my hand almost broke from lifting the glass. I’ll leave out how many liters I had…let’s just say I had a very good time celebrating this German tradition.

Because working all week long and celebrating Friday evening wasn’t enough, we hoped on a train at 4 am to catch our 7am flight to Paris. Hey – we’re in Europe, everything is so close! And I figured we could sleep when we get home.

I have a very nice friend whose sister lives right outside Paris and agreed to be our host for the weekend. She picked us up from the airport, took us to have croissants from a local bakery and then we hopped on the metro to explore Paris. It was beautiful! All the images I imagined were even more spectacular in person. We walked all over and saw the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Louve, Champs Elysees, Moulin Rouge, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, and a river cruise. We saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night which was truly magical!

Who says you can’t do Paris in a day?? Turns out we walked 11 miles on Saturday. The most surprising thing to me was the lines to get in to all these places. Unfortunately, we had to make a decision on what to do Sunday…do we go see something new? Or go back to something we saw on Saturday and stand in line. We chose the latter.

So after another good night’s sleep, we ate more croissants, caught the metro and headed to Notre Dame. I’ll admit this wasn’t top on my list but my colleague really wanted to see it. So I was happy to oblige and it didn’t disappoint. It was absolutely amazing! I’m not a religious person (more spiritual) but walking into the massive cathedral was peaceful.

Next, we went to the Eiffel Tower – the line to ride the elevator was massive and to be honest, I really wanted to walk the stairs. Just as an FYI – there are 669 steps to the 2nd level. We didn’t make it to the very top but honestly, I was ok with that.

So before I explain further, I feel I need to provide a side note…

Back in 1996, when I was a park ranger at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, my fellow ranger and I were roving about. We came across a couple from France who decided they would make a campfire in the parking lot to cook their hot dogs. We quickly explained they were not allowed to do this and they were quickly to respond to us “It is okay, we are French!” To this day, my friend and I joke about this story.

So back to the Eiffel Tower, in my imagination, my image of Paris was that all French people eat croissants and drink champagne. On the 2nd level there was a nice gift shop and café and as it turns out they had wine and croissants! So I indulged. I got a couple of strange looks and laughs but I just said “It is okay, I am American!”
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